Cash is NOT King


Cash is NOT King

Okay. Sure. When the real estate market is way down and developers swoop in and buy anything with a foundation only to flip for a huge profit 18 months later… cash is king. But like many colloquialisms in society, this one has been misapplied. 

It turns out, when it comes to employee compensation, cash is NOT king.

Many companies mistakenly use a one-size-fits-all approach to care for their employees; often, their preferred love language is cash. However, employees simply aren’t feeling that love. In fact, 80%+ of all employees surveyed (Glassdoor) would prefer additional benefits or perks to a pay raise. 89% of employees age 18-34 shared the same sentiment. And, in case you’re wondering, yes – the oldest age group agreed as well. 66% of employees over 55 years old choose non-cash compensation when given the choice. 

Should we be surprised? Let’s explore a hypothetical with my wife, Jessamyn. Men and women alike, give me feedback on the message you’d rather hear from your spouse:

Option A: “Happy Birthday honey! You are great and I value you. I also value 500 other people in my life, all of whom have birthdays. So, I thought it would be fair and efficient to simply hand out cash to each one so that they could pick their own gift and save me the trouble of shopping and selecting something appropriate. Love you!” 

Option B: “Happy Birthday, honey! I’ve thought long and hard about what you’d really want for your birthday. I thought back to conversations we’ve had in the last year, interests that you have, little comments you’ve made recently, etc. We can always take it back if I’m wrong, but here’s the gift I’m hoping you’ll really love because it’s screams ‘Jessamyn!’.” 

“Cash is king” … if you like sleeping on the couch. 


The disconnect between employers and employees boils down to something very simple: Many employers still see the world through a personal vs. professional lens. Work is work. And personal life is personal. Employees, on the other hand, have very clearly transitioned their thinking. The work-life balance is gone. It’s about a work-life blend.

Work is personal. And if work is personal, an employee’s relationship with their employer is also personal.

This was both statistically and eloquently on display in Mercer’s 2019 Global Talent Trends Study:

“In a talent economy, employee pride has become an issue of business strategy. Brand matters because employees today have a more intimate relationship with their organization… employees’ collective voice on matters of culture, equity, and ethics are now mainstream news.”


To all the CEOs out there thinking “to keep my people, I just need to pay them more” – wake up. This is the age of meaning, purpose, accountability, and personalization. Show your employees their job matters and more importantly, that THEY matter. 

Employee experience is king. Next-gen benefits are queen. Sorry cash, you had a good run.

Ready to learn more?

Jordan Peace